Now that winter is drawing to a close, residential and commercial buildings will soon be switching their heating systems off and their air conditioning systems on. This is the ideal time of year to begin preparing your boiler for the next heating season assuring the building that the boiler will continue to operate at peak efficiency which translates into meaningful dollar savings. Recent inflated oil prices have alerted many buildings to the basic fact that an inefficient boiler will cost a building unnecessary wasted dollars that could be saved with proper maintenance.
As this heating season draws to a close, there are a number of simple, relatively inexpensive, but necessary steps to prepare your boiler to operate properly during the spring, summer and fall seasons.
Keep It Clean
The first step, and one of the most important, is a proper major cleaning performed by a reliable company with skilled personnel and proper equipment (i.e., high-power, truck-mounted vacuum system). One prerequisite for a boiler to efficiently attain proper heat transfer is for the fire tubes to be free of soot and scale. The soot acts as a type of insulation and will reduce the efficiency of the heat transfer from the burner flame to boil the water on the outside of the tubes. This translates into wasted energy and higher fuel bills. Soot build-up inside the boiler may lead to other maintenance problems as well. These maintenance problems are attributed in part to the high sulfur content contained in soot, which creates sulfuric acid, which will ultimately corrode the boiler tubes.
Control Soot Buildup
Tests that have been conducted by municipalities, heating plant engineers and boiler manufacturers have proven that even a small amount of soot (1/8" to 1/16") will drain boiler efficiency by as much as 25 percent depending on the system. This amount of wasted fuel translates into wasted dollars to any multi-family building. A boiler system must be completely clean on the water and fire side. A clean heating surface results in maximum heat transfer and less heat (dollars) up the stack.
It is usually recommended that any #2, #4, #6 oil and gas burner have a properly-equipped company perform a "major cleaning" at the end of each heating season. This "major cleaning" consists of wire brushing all the fire tubes, vacuum cleaning of the entire boiler (using a high-power, truck-mounted vacuum system) breeching, chamber and chimney base.
Many residential and commercial buildings continue to use their boilers throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons in order to provide hot water to the residents of these buildings. Boilers that are burning the heavier fuels such as #4 and #6 will continue to throw off a residue of soot into the fire tubes and reflecting plates of the boiler. These boilers should receive periodic supplementary cleanings throughout the spring, summer and fall months in order to keep the fire tubes, reflecting plates, tube sheets and chimney base free of soot accumulations which will result in increased boiler efficiency.
Check Boilers Regularly
During the spring and summer months, all boilers should be checked for leaks, all tubes that may have been plugged during the heating season should be changed and all gasketing should be checked. Any leaking tubes or open seams should be attended to immediately.
Those boilers that are being used to generate hot water during these mild weather months should receive another major cleaning in the fall just prior to the start of the next heating season. This will ensure that your boiler is in proper operating condition enabling it to work at its peak efficiency throughout the next heating season.
Michael Sandler is the president of Nu-Way/Scientific Boiler based in Brooklyn.